Tuition fee hikes at Memorial University will erode its competitive advantage: study

Province’s fiscal plan could make students pay for one-third of deficit by 2025
January 18, 2022

OTTAWA—Planned tuition fee hikes and funding cuts at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) will erode the school’s ability to attract students and download a disproportionate amount of the province’s deficit onto learners, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study, Passing the Buck: The impact of increasing Memorial University tuition to pay down Newfoundland and Labrador’s deficit, finds students at the school—long a bastion for affordable post-secondary education in Atlantic Canada—will pay much more in tuition fees despite the high likelihood that the province’s deficit will turn into a surplus by 2025-26.

For in-province students enrolling in the fall of 2022, the cost of an undergraduate degree will rise 150 per cent from $10,200 to $25,480. By the time the changes are fully in place in 2026-27 almost half of the fee increases (44%) will fall on in-province students, with costs approaching those of major universities in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. 

Meanwhile, international undergraduate students' degree costs will double from $43,120 to $84,930 for those starting in the fall of 2022, a whopping $41,810 more. These much higher degree costs will make it more expensive than any other university in Atlantic Canada.

“Government deficits don’t just ‘go away’— they are transferred to other sectors of the economy. By the time of full implementation, Memorial University’s undergraduate students—who represent just 2 per cent of the population—could end up paying nearly a third of the province’s entire deficit by themselves,” said author David Macdonald, CCPA Senior Economist. “The provincial deficit will have likely turned into a surplus by that point, further negating the rationale for this radical policy shift.”

Meanwhile, the school itself won’t benefit from the tuition fee increases since its operational grant will be cut by roughly the same amount. This will effectively freeze what it receives from the provincial government for the next five years. Therefore, the school will have to contend with the equivalent of $27 million in inflationary pressures between 2022 and 2026-27 that may well result in further operational cuts.

“The funding freeze will erode the quality of education that Memorial University students receive at a time when tuition fee increases will make the school far less desirable to prospective students,” said Katherine McLaughlin, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students - Newfoundland and Labrador. 

“Instead of looking to university students as its future, the province is looking to them as a debt transfer mechanism to whom the buck can be passed.”


For interviews please contact: Jolson Lim, CCPA communications specialist, at [email protected] or 613-413-0945.

The CCPA is an independent, non-profit charitable research institute founded in 1980.